Monday NBA grades: Chandler Parsons might be the Rockets’ third man

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while watching… actually you should have been watching the NBA all day. There were great performances — such as Anthony Davis with 27 points and 10 rebounds, or Dwight Howard with 24 points and 12 boards — that don’t even make the cut here. The Association was the best entertainment going on Martin Luther King day.

source:  Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets. Houston GM Daryl Morey said he thought the Rockets had the first two pieces of a title contender in James Harden and Dwight Howard, but they still needed piece No. 3. The next game, Parsons comes out drops 31 points on 12-of-19 shooting and had 10 rebounds and seven assists … message being sent? Parsons had 10 points in the first quarter when Houston went on a 21-6 run to take a lead they never gave up, and he was there with big shots to help stop Portland runs all night. Whether or not he’s this team’s No. 3, he is big for them.

source:   Miami Heat defense. You can say it is because they are tired, or because they are bored, or it’s because of injuries — the bottom line is Miami is playing terrible defense of late. They allowed the Hawks to shoot 51.9 percent on Monday and score 122.4 points per 100 possessions. In their last 10 games the Heat are allowing 107.6 points per 100, 5.2 higher than their season average and 23rd in the NBA in that stretch. Miami’s defense is different than most, rather than having a shot-blocking center in the paint to erase mistakes; they play a pressure defense that counts on energy and athleticism. Take your foot off the gas with that kind of defense and you get exposed. The Heat’s lack of energy shows on defense, and it shows on the scoreboard.

source:   Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers. MCW looked like the stud from the first month of the season Monday — 31 points on 22 shots, plus he had 5 assists. What seemed different was the frequency and determinations of his drives to the basket, he was aggressive and attacking again. Not that it was enough, the Sixers still lost to the Wizards. Still, good to see this Carter-Williams again.

source:   LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. He put up monster numbers that need to be mentioned here — 27 points and 20 rebounds. He wasn’t efficient (11-of-26 shooting) and he was part of some spotty Portland defense on the day (they gave up 126 points to the Rockets) still you have to give Aldridge credit for his numbers. He made some fantasy owners happy.

source:  D.J. Augustin, Chicago Bulls. Augustin — who was let go by the Pacers last season and waived by the Raptors this season — has played the best basketball of his career in the 19 games since joining the Bulls, and he was key in this one. Augustin had 11 points in the fourth quarter, then five in overtime to help give the Bulls a win over the Lakers (a win that pulls Chicago up to .500. Augustin finished the game with 27 points. Not bad for a cast off.

Donovan says Lonzo Ball’s recovery has ‘been really slow’

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
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Watching the finger-pointing and heated moments between Bulls’ defenders on Wednesday night as Devin Booker carved them up to the tune of 51 points, one thought was how much they miss Lonzo Ball‘s defense at the point of attack.

Ball had a second surgery on his knee back in September and the team said he would be out at “least a few months.” It’s coming up on a few months, so Donovan gave an update on Ball and his recovery, and the news was not good for Bulls’ fans. Via Rob Schaefer at NBC Sports Chicago:

“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said when asked about Ball’s rehab. “I’m just being honest.”

Donovan added Ball has not necessarily suffered a setback. The Bulls knew this would be an arduous process. But he also noted that Ball is “not even close” to being cleared for contact or on-court work.

Ball had his first knee surgery in January and the expectation was he would be back and 100% by the playoffs. However, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. Things didn’t improve over the summer, which led to the second surgery. How much do they miss him? The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game. However, it was his defense that was most crucial.

There is no timeline for his return. Which is not good news for Chicago.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.

Watch Russell Westbrook drain two buzzer-beaters against Blazers

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The Portland Trail Blazers had to know it was not their night when Russell Westbrook knocked down a buzzer-beating step-back 3-pointer just before the half.

Westbrook wasn’t done, he had one more buzzer-beater in him at the end of the third.

Westbrook wasn’t the only guy in the building draining half-courters — for the second-straight game a Laker fan knocked down a half-court shot, this time to win $25,000.

It was a good night all around for the Lakers and their fans at home against the shorthanded Trail Blazers. They got 31 points from LeBron James, plus 27 points and 12 boards from Anthony Davis. Austin Reaves added in 22, and the Lakers took control in the third and cruised in for a needed win.